I’ll tell you what I first thought it was when I found out that our foster kitty, Charley, was FIV+ (feline immunodeficiency virus). It was unknown, scary and in my house! Just like most people who don’t understand this disease, I panicked. Then I put in a phone call to my vet and was referred to some very credible information sites to learn about what had entered my home, besides the beautiful cat that came with it.
The very first thing I learned was that there are far more websites with outdated information than there are current information websites. The reason why is simple…it was only discovered in 1986, in a cattery in California. This is a relatively new disease and has had very little research done until around the late 90’s. Even after 26 years this disease is surrounded with myths, untruths and scary scenarios to cat owners and vets alike.
Let me break FIV down to the basic facts. It is an immunodeficiency virus; it suppresses the immune system of the host. FIV, by itself, will not cause the death of its host. The diseases and infections that the immune system simply can’t fight off will eventually lead to the cat’s demise. We now know that FIV+ cats and kittens can live a full life with the same life expectancy of a healthy animal as long as they are kept indoors, kept away from sick cats, receive regular vet exams and are fed a high quality diet.
What FIV is NOT is a disease that is easily transmitted. FIV can only be transmitted through deep bite wounds that cause bleeding and sexual contact.
That’s it folks! Many family cats have been FIV+ for years, right alongside their non-infected feline family, without anyone knowing because there wouldn’t have been any reason for them to have been tested in the first place. Cats cannot get FIV from sharing bowls, litter boxes or beds. Not even grooming will transmit FIV unless there is some kind of blood transfer from the infected cat to the non-infected cat.
Once my family and I understood what FIV was, and what it wasn’t, we were able to take charge of the situation and ensure that Charley would have a long, fulfilling life. Being cat people like we are makes us very familiar with integrating new cats into our current feline family. We did just that with Charley, slowly to make sure there was no fighting, and responsibly. Charley actually ended up being the welcoming committee for all new fosters! He played this role to perfection until he went to his forever home where currently he is happy, healthy and extremely spoiled.
– researched and written by KD Member Suzette Morissey